|photo credit: Mr.Tea via photopin cc|
The NFL’s Washington Redskins have been at the center of controversy on and off for decades. It’s not anything they’ve done; it’s what they haven’t: changed their name. The term “Redskin” is a pejorative name for Native American, one many deem as offensive as the N-word is for African-Americans. Recently, the controversy gained new life, and at the center is Rick Reilly, the well-known and occasionally maligned ESPN columnist.
Reilly wrote a column last week defending the name “Redskins” for a variety of reasons, arguing, “I know Native Americans who don’t care,” and, “White America is always telling everyone what to do.” Reilly built his case by lumping people (white Americans, columnists who criticize the name, etc.) into groups and dismissing them altogether. He used a handful of predominantly Native American high school teams that use the name Redskins and love it as a rationale for keeping the status quo in D.C., failing to recognize the slightest bit of cultural nuance. Reilly mashed arguments together to come to the conclusion that if white America decides to change the Redskins name, it is akin to deciding what is best for all Native Americans and putting them back on reservations.
In all, it was a disturbingly poor and hurtful column.
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The problem is that getting rid of vestiges of racism doesn’t solve the problem—it just makes us feel better. Ultimately, it is just putting a new paint job on a broken-down car—or, as Jesus put it, white washing a tomb.
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